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#2 Led by the Spirit in the Trial

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               “LED BY THE SPIRIT DURING THE TRIAL

                     (A Series on the Book of James)

Westgate Chapel 10/10/04                                       James 1:1-4

Proposition:      Pure and undefiled religion is being led by the Holy Spirit during the trial.

i.    introduction

-     FIVE times in the Epistle of James, the brother of Jesus, the senior elder of the First Christian Church of Jerusalem….NT Church headquarters….warns the first generation of Christians, spread out all over the world, not to be deceived.

*     In James 1:16, the warning is about the deception of playing around the edges of temptation.

*     In James 1:22, the warning has to do with the deception of hearing but not doing the Word of God.

*     In James 1:26, James addresses the deception of not having control over what comes out of your mouth.

*     In James 4:13, the warning is about the deception of making plans for the future based on the strength of your possessions or position, without consideration of the Holy Spirit’s guidance in your life.

*     And lastly, James 5:19, warns about the deception of straying from the truth (isn’t it interesting that the Word of God has no problem using the reference point of absolute Truth).

-     IN each of these five verses either the actual Greek word for deception is used, or some derivative.

-     THESE are first generation Pentecostal Christians James is writing to.

-     IT is fairly safe to say that in those early days the vast majority of Christians were baptized in the Holy Spirit, as the Book of Acts records.

-     SO, why are their regenerated, Spirit-baptized hearts even vulnerable to deception…which is usually followed close behind by outright sin?

-     WHAT would make them vulnerable to deception?

-     ONE thing! Write this down!

-     “BEING conformed to the world exposes me to deception.”

-     HOW?

-     BECAUSE when, as a Christian, your heart, your desires, and your lifestyle are conformed to (shaped, molded by) the world, you grieve the Holy Spirit.

      “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” (Ephesians 4:30)

-     THAT word, grieve, means: to offend, to hurt, to make uneasy and sorrowful.

-     WHEN you grieve the Holy Spirit continually without repentance, you face the grave danger of Him withdrawing His presence and gracious influences….the opposite of the immersion in God that accompanies Spirit baptism.

-     AND when the Holy Spirit withdraws, you are still a Christian, but are no longer being led by the Spirit…and you might as well paint a bull’s-eye on your forehead for the Devil.

-     YOU are a prime target for deception.

-     THAT is why the apostle Paul writes, in Romans 12:1-2,

                           “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world…”

-     SO, your best antidote against deception, is to not be conformed to the world…and instead be led by the Spirit.

-     AND the epistle of James is the mirror in which to gaze….to see how your reflection matches with the life led by the Spirit.

-     ROMANS 8:14 says those who,

      “…are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons [and daughters] of God.”

-     SO, let’s pick up the mirror and take a look at the first four verses of James chapter 1.

ii.   LED by the spirit

-     JAMES 1:1 opens with (NIV),

      “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings.”

-     JAMES is written about 60 AD…in other words, about 30 years into the life of the New Testament church.

-     THE epistle is written primarily to Jewish Christians, many of whom had, at first, been members of the church right there in Jerusalem…but had been scattered throughout the Roman empire due to persecution (Acts 8:1).

-     AS the Senior Pastor of the church in Jerusalem, it had been easier for James to watch over the souls and spiritual temperature of the new Christians when they were….

*     …meeting every day in homes for fellowship and being accountable to each other.

*     …studying the apostle’s teaching together.

*     …holding regular prayer meetings.

*     …praising God.

*     …having favor with the people. (Acts 2:42-47).

-     BUT now the severe persecution against them in Jerusalem had scattered most of them throughout the empire…and they were facing incredible hardships and opposition of every kind.

-     AND without the mutual strength of being together right there in Jerusalem…many of them were being pressured into conformity with the world.

-     THEY had seen and known plenty of the power of this Holy Spirit baptism that launched the New Testament Church…but James wants them to know that this Spirit baptism is as much about being Spirit led as it is about gifts and manifestations.

-     SO, Pastor James picks up his pen to write a letter that will be distributed throughout the empire and will be read to Christians with great weight and authority because of who he is and the position and respect he has.

-     AND, in the first four verses, God shows us three images in the mirror of the Spirit-led life…and all three have to do with how you and I live when we are going through various trials!

 

1.   A BOND-SERVANT OF GOD AND THE LORD JESUS CHRIST.

-     THE first image in the mirror comes from the elder/pastor himself and has to do with how he sees himself…his self-identity in the Spirit.

-     FIRST of all, think with me about how he could have viewed himself and introduced himself in this letter.

*     The senior elder/pastor of the founding Church of the Christian movement.

*     The brother of our Lord. He could have claimed close to equality with Jesus since he was Jesus’ brother.

*     The Right Reverend Dr of the international headquarters church….the first church of Jerusalem.

*     Chairman and chief negotiator of the first council in Jerusalem (Acts 15).

-     ISN’T that how the world thinks? Isn’t that how the world operates?

-     ESPECIALLY for the male of the species, it is all about position, promotion, titles, press agents, and image…and the impression we make.

-     LISTEN, if any letter going out to the churches needed clout this one did….so why not open up the letter, especially for the benefit of those who might not have known James, with the big impressive titles?

-     BUT James is not conformed to the world and its love for titles and influence. Instead, James is being led by the Spirit, so he opens his letter with…

      “James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.” (NASB)

-     A BONDSERVANT.

                           Definition: a slave, bondman, man of servile condition. A slave; one who gives himself up to another’s will. Devoted to another, to the disregard of one’s own interests. A servant, an attendant.

-     THAT is how a Spirit-led Christian views himself or herself.

-     A BONDSERVANT…

*     is someone who, given the opportunity voluntarily takes the low position.

*     is someone who has voluntarily laid down his/her own interests and agenda.

*     is someone who has committed himself without reservation to the interests of his/her master.

*     is someone who lives to serve God, your spouse, your family, the people of God.

-     (HOLD UP mirror!)

-     THIS is what people look like who are led by the Sprit.

-     HOW do you look by comparison? Or has the world been squeezing you into its shape on this issue?

-     IT will set you up for all kinds of deception.

-     PHILIPPIANS 2:6-7 says about Jesus,

      “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness…”

 

2.   FACING ALL KINDS OF TRIALS WITH JOY.

-     LET’S move on to the second image I see from the mirror of the first four verses of James 1…a reflection of being led by the Spirit.

-     AT the time James writes this epistle all hell is breaking loose around him and the Jewish Christians dispersed in the empire.

*     Nero is emperor of the Rome and is shifting the blame of his own ineptitude and abysmal record off himself and on to the Christians.

*     Persecution against Christians is not wide spread yet, but it is breaking out in pockets here and there.

*     The apostle Paul has been arrested in Jerusalem and is sitting in prison in Rome.

*     The economy of the empire is in bad shape and there is unrest everywhere.

*     Every Christian is being forced to declare “Caesar is Lord” or face unemployment and starvation….at best. Execution at worst.

-     WE don’t know if he had any inkling this was going happen, but eighteen months after he wrote the epistle, James was executed for his faith.

-     SO, all hell is breaking loose around them…and very few of them have the support system they used to have back in Jerusalem.

-     PRISON doors are not popping open like they did for Peter and John and Paul and Silas.

-     THOUSANDS are no longer being added to the church every day.

-     THEY no longer have favor with the people.

-     MANY of their leaders are dying horrible deaths.

-     AND the world’s way of dealing with these kinds of trials would be to…

*     Identify the enemy and strike back in anger.

*     Get discouraged, grumble and complain.

*     Find someone to blame.

*     Make the life of everyone around you miserable.

*     Absorb the abuse but develop a victim mentality.

*     Become bitter and cynical about life.

*     Lose your confidence and then your faith.

*     Drop out.

*     Quit!

-     BUT James holds up the mirror of the Spirit-led life and says in verse 2,

      “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds…”

-     THE trials are those valley experiences we all face that test our metal, our patience and our faith. They are you opportunity to see if you really believe that God is in control of your life and knows what He is doing.

-     WE all have various trials. Sometimes they come in clusters.

-     IT is fascinating to me that the verb for, consider them pure joy, in the Greek literally means….be ruled by…pure joy!

-     THE joy is not a silly naiveté. It is the confidence that God loves you and is in control of your life and intends good for you…in the middle of the trials.

-     HOW can you be ruled by joy in the face of these different kinds of trials?

-     BY being led by the Spirit instead of your emotions and the ways the world deals with hard stuff.

-     THAT is why you and I need to be baptized in, saturated in, immersed in the person and power of the Holy….so we can surrender to Him and be led by Him.

-     ROMANS 14:16 says,

      “…the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit!”

-     (HOLD UP THE MIRROR) How do your reactions to trials compare to the Holy Spirit mirror of James?

 

 

 

 

3.   CONFIDENT THAT GOD IS BUILDING ENDURANCE IN YOU.

-     HERE is the third image I see from the mirror of the first four verses of James 1…a reflection of being led by the Spirit.

-     IT is found in verses 3-4 (NASB),

      “…the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

-     GOING through the stuff….with the joy of the Spirit produces endurance in you and me.

-     ENDURANCE!

-     THERE is not much of that around.

-     NOT in the family.

*     People change spouses today rather than allow God to change us.

*     Parents retreat into their own interests and worlds instead of endure through the rough stuff with their kids.

-     THERE is not much endurance in the business world.

*     People change jobs today whenever the going gets a little tough rather than work through things.

-     THERE is not much endurance in relationships today.

-     THERE is not much endurance when it comes to physical wellness today.

*     We would rather lose weight by taking a dream away pill and eating the way we want rather than diet and exercise.

*     We would rather take a pill for blood pressure than moderate our lifestyles.

-     THERE is not much endurance in spiritual growth today.

*     We want to be saved from hell and promised heaven, but we don’t want to expend any effort beyond that.

*     We change churches when our feelings get hurt or things don’t go our way, rather than allowing the hurt to refine us.

*     We want spiritual maturity from going forward for prayer rather than doing the disciplines of the faith and going through the stuff.

*     We want God’s answers and will, but we don’t want to pray without ceasing.

-     LISTEN to me this morning! The Christian life is not a 100 yd dash to the finish line. It is a marathon.

-     AND God wants to use the various trials the come our way to produce endurance.

-     THAT is what it is all about…endurance!

-     ENDURANCE is…

                           “the characteristic of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings.”

-     THIS is not just something that would be nice to have! Look at what James says is the result of endurance!

*     That you may be perfect!

      “…brought to its end, finished. Consummate human integrity and virtue.”

*     That you may be complete!

      “…in no part wanting or unsound; whole. Without blemish or defect.”

*     That you may lack nothing!

      There is nothing that can be said to improve the meaning of these words.

-     BUT to receive this incredible promise in your life, you have to go through the tests so that God can build endurance in your life.

-     (HOLD UP THE MIRROR) How does your endurance and its fruit compare to the Holy Spirit mirror of James?

iii.  conclusion

-     SAINTS, this is the Spirit-led life that James is holding up for us in the mirror of his epistle.

-     YOU say you are born again and have the Holy Spirit dwelling in you….how do you look on these three things James showed you in the mirror?

*     Being a bond-servant of God.

*     Facing all kinds of trials with the joy of the Spirit.

*     Holding on to your confidence that God is building endurance in you.

-     YOU say you have been baptized in the Holy Spirit! Wonderful! But has your Spirit baptism resulted in you being surrendered to God and led by the Spirit in these ways James describes?

-     IF not, it is time for fresh surrender today!

-     IT is no small matter.

-     ROMANS 8:14 says those who,

      “…are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons [and daughters] of God.”

-     ROMANS 8:5 says,

      “…those who live according to the Spirit, [have set their minds on] the things of the Spirit.”

-     JAMES is the mirror….for you to look at yourself in in order to see if you are led by the Spirit.

-     LISTEN very carefully to me today!

-     THE reason so many Christians are living defeated lives…deceived by Satan and the world instead of living in victory is because the Holy Spirit has been grieved by the choices of our lifestyles, conforming to the world…and has withdrawn.

-     WE may still be saved, but our lives reflect the world more than God…and we live in constant defeat.

-     JAMES is the test to see if you are conformed to the world or being led by the Spirit.

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